Named after the Umayyad Caliphate (the second major Arab caliphate established after the death of Muhammad), aims to transpose “the definitive characteristic in all Islamic art”, design element known as the arabesque.
Umayyads were the first caliphate to rule the newly-established Islamic Empire and the Umayyad period is considered not only the formative period in Islamic art, but also the emergent moment of Islamic aesthetic priorities. By combining the various traditions that they had inherited, and by re-adapting motifs and architectural elements, artists created little by little a typically Muslim art, particularly discernible in the aesthetic of the arabesque, which appears both on monuments and in illuminated Qur’āns.
The Umayyad style is notable for the conscious renunciation of religious imagery and is characterized by the depiction of nature as a recurring theme; plant motifs, alone or set into architectural or geometric frameworks, developed into either naturalistic or stylized compositions, both marked by a sense of vigor and energy. This trend eventually led to the development of the arabesque as seen in the stucco decoration of Khirbat al-Mafjar and Qasr al-Mshatta. Moreover, the Umayyad Mosque design introduced for the first time methods of grand interior floral arabesque ornamentation through marble and mosaic details.
The arabesque pattern is composed of many units joined and interlaced together, flowing from each other in all directions. Each unit, although independent, complete and able to stand alone, forms part of the whole design; a note in the general rhythm of the pattern.
The expression embodied in its interlacing pattern, cohesive movement, gravity, mass, and volume signifies infinity and produces a contemplative feeling in the spectator leading him slowly into the depth of the Divine presence. Many arabesque patterns disappear under a framing edge without ending, and thus can be regarded as infinitely extendable outside the space they actually occupy.
“Arabesque strives, not to concentrate the attention upon any definite object, to liven and quicken the appreciative faculties, but to diffuse them. It is centrifugal, and leads to a kind of abstraction, a kind of self-hypnotism even, so that the devotee kneeling towards Makkah can bemuse himself in the maze of regular patterning that confront him, and free his mind from all connection with bodily and earthly things.” – Martin S. Briggs